Even after prominent symptoms such as headaches and dizziness subside, the brain still needs time to fully recover from a concussion.
This article reviews the importance of spending an appropriate amount of time recovering from a concussion and the risks possible with inadequate recovery time.
The Importance of Brain Rest
Brain rest has been shown to reduce recovery times in concussion patients. Depending on personal and professional commitments, it can be difficult to take the time necessary to recover. However, getting brain rest (limiting all non-critical cognitive activity) following a concussion, then resuming daily activities slowly, will take less time for patients in the long run than charging through their typical day-to-day activities without taking adequate time off to heal.
See Brain Rest and Concussion Recovery
One recent study that examined the impact of cognitive rest on concussion recovery times saw patients who limited their cognitive activity make full recoveries from their concussions (including all lingering post-concussive symptoms) in half as much time as patients who did not change their behavior. 1 Brown NJ, Mannix RC, O'Brien MJ, Gostine D, Collins MW, Meehan WP 3rd. Effect of cognitive activity level on duration of post-concussion symptoms. Pediatrics. 2014 Jan 6.
In This Article:
- Concussion and the Importance of Recovery Time
- Risks of Inadequate Concussion Recovery Time
- Factors Affecting Concussion Recovery
Cognitive Importance of Recovery Time
Concussion can affect many areas of cognition, including attention and concentration, processing speed and efficiency, long-term memory and learning, working memory, and verbal fluency.
Concussion patients who cannot or will not engage in brain rest after their injuries are at risk of prolonging or exacerbating their cognitive symptoms.
Physical Importance of Recovery Time
After a concussive event, the brain experiences metabolic changes 2 Kawamata T, Katayama Y, Hovda DA, Yoshino A, Becker DP. Administration of excitatory amino acid antagonists via microdialysis attenuates the increase in glucose utilization seen following concussive brain injury. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 1992;12(1):12-24. that make it more vulnerable to cell death upon second injury—even one of less intensity. 3 Maroon JC, Lovell MR, Norwig J, Podell K, Powell JW, Hartl R. Cerebral concussion in athletes: evaluation and neuropsychological testing. Neurosurgery. 2000;47(3):659-69.
Without adequate recovery time, the brain’s natural regulatory systems cannot effectively protect against head injury. This makes concussion patients vulnerable to a number of post-concussive risk, including brain herniation and death.
Emotional Importance of Recovery Time
Anxiety, mood swings, depression, irritability and outbursts, and other psychological and psychiatric symptoms may worsen from a concussion and persist without adequate rest. Concussion recovery can be frustrating and stressful; patients who get adequate brain rest and physical rest may be less stressed and better able to cope during recovery. 4 Emotional Problems After Traumatic Brain Injury. Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center. Available at http://www.msktc.org/tbi/factsheets/Emotional-Problems-After-Traumatic-Brain-Injury. Accessed October 2014.